'Overwatch' Director Responds To Fan's Hand-Written Letter About Lack of Black Characters In Game

While Blizzard has been doing a better job defining Overwatch character inclusiveness as of late (like Soldier:76 being confirmed as gay, and Tracer before him), there's still some concern with the game for not having enough selectable black characters.

Overwatch

In a previous interview with game director Jeff Kaplan, he explained that there are characters in the works, and doesn't "think people are gonna be disappointed." Though that was a start, he touched upon the subject even further in response to a fan letter that was sent out to him back in early 2017.

Kotaku first posted the story about said letter, in which 23-year old Vivian Phillips wrote to Kaplan to discuss how such characters were missing from the game. She explained the reasoning for her letter to the site. "Socially, I've felt like a monster, Mr. Kaplan. I can only name three Black females that've been leads in a video game: Clementine from The Walking Dead, Nilin from Remember Me, and Rochelle from Left 4 Dead. But worst was my acceptance of it."

She expressed further her desire to see more inclusiveness and how that put her at odds with others in the community: "I was like, 'Hey, wouldn't it be cool if it was a black woman?' I got very vitriolic, hateful comments, like, 'Black people always bring up race! What does the race of a person have to do with it?'"

Just two months after sending the detailed letter to him, Kaplan responded. After apologizing for the time it took to get back to her, he explained, "I had been traveling and it was extremely powerful and moving reading about how Overwatch had affected your personal views of the current state of video games."

He then opened up about his history in gaming and noted, "We work extremely hard and we take what we do very seriously- but in the end, we're creating these super fun entertainment experiences with the goal of making people laugh, smile, and forget- even if it just for a few minutes- about the harsh realities the world offers us sometimes."

He then discussed his work on The Burning Crusade from ten years ago, and how he met a visitor by the name of Ezra Chatteron through the Make-a-Wish foundation. He then talked about how Ezra moved him explaining how he had played World of Warcraft on his laptop as a way to escape his terminal illness, even temporarily.

Kaplan also touched on how he thinks about his current role as director of Overwatch, and how overwhelming its audience of 30 million players can be at times.

"We have the opportunity to reach out and influence a lot of people," he explained. "Whether we like it or not, the things we create are part of popular culture. Obviously, creative integrity is key to us- we would never sacrifice our vision for politics. But as we started to work on this game, it dawned on us how amazing this world is- how vastly and powerfully diverse it is- and how awesome the people of the world are.

"We're so ignorant about so many things. But we want to learn and we want to celebrate who we are- who we ALL are. My team is going to get it wrong sometimes. We shipped the game with only 70 of us and now we number 100. So it's impossible for us to represent all walks of life. But we believe in a spirit of open-mindedness and positivity."

"The most important thing to me is that those in positions to influence and reflect society start portraying very normal things as being normal. Right now, it makes ripples when we feature characters of different backgrounds. It's a big deal when we reveal that a hero is a lesbian. But I long for the day when it's not a big deal. It needs to not be newsworthy. We need to help normal be normal. My hope is that the more my team can show that heroes can come from any walk of life and any point of view, the more we realize that each and every one of us has a hero inside waiting to be realized."

And then he brought up a quote from Dr. Winston: "Never accept the world as it appears to be, dare to see it for what it could be."

From addressing her concerns head on, to admitting how they can do better and how her communication has inspired the team, the message rang loud and clear: They are listening. You can read the full response here.

It's a good reminder that there are people out there still driven by their craft, and still heartfelt to giving fans the proper experience- and the heroes- they deserve. We're not sure what kind of heroes will be coming next for Overwatch, but it definitely sounds like Kaplan and company are listening when it comes to covering all walks of life within it.

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Overwatch is available now for Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC.

(Hat tip to Kotaku for the details!)